Speculation mounts over future of BP finance chief

Speculation was rife in the City that Browne was effectively forced to
announce a definitive retirement date by chairman Peter Sutherland last year,
but he announced his decision to step down in July, 18 months earlier than
planned but Grote has kept to the shadows, refusing to make his intentions

Little is known about Grote, but what is common knowledge is that at 58 he is
getting closer to BP’s mandatory retirement threshold.

After a sustained period of upheaval at BP, there is sure to be a growing
consensus for Grote to state his future intentions at the company and clarify
his position in order to reassure investors and the City.

The FTSE 100 colossus has weathered criticism from all quarters after
suffering a catalogue of setbacks including the Texas City Oil refinery blast in
2005. The energy giant was also forced to shut part of its Prudhoe Bay oilfield
in Alaska, the largest in the US, after a spill.

BP was heavily criticized in the Baker report last week, as major
shortcomings in safety controls at its five US refineries were highlighted. Some
city figures expected Grote to go at the same time as Lord Browne, but if Grote
does not put an end to the speculation in the near future, his hand may be
forced by chief exec-in-waiting Tony Hayward-the current head of exploration.
Hayward may seek to set down a marker with an influx of fresh talent to the BP
board when he assumes control in August.

If the CFO’s position at BP does become vacant, executive search consultants
have hinted that internal candidates at BP could be in the frame. ‘BP like to go
internally if they can,’ said a source. ‘But it may be sensible for them to
appoint externally from a corporate governance perspective after going
internally with the new chief executive.’

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